• By Vanessa Seitz

Midway News and Views

Midway News Health fair and weight loss challenge The sixth annual St. Matthew AME Church community health fair and weight loss challenge will be held at Midway Presbyterian Church Saturday, Feb. 29. It costs $40 to enter the challenge as an individual, but teams of four to six can also enter to win a team prize. Entrants receive a free t-shirt and winners will receive cash prizes. The winner is decided by the highest percentage of weight loss. The health fair will be held from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, with free yoga classes from 8:30 to 10:00 a.m. and Zumba classes at 12 and 1 p.m. For more information and to sign up, contact Eugenia Johnson-Smith at (859) 227-9951 or eugeniaaka@gmail.com.

Midway Views Midway – fact, fiction, history and great food Just for fun this week, I thought it would be fun to explore some fun facts about Midway and what attracts people to our hometown. One of the best things for me about moving here and writing the column each week has been getting to know the people behind this town – the mayor, business owners, residents and getting to know the stories behind the people. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in 22 years of writing is that there is always a story, and not always the most obvious story. And that’s what keeps me writing week after week… So, I have written a little on some of the history of Midway over the past year-and-a-half, but here are some quick facts, some old stories and some new ones about this town we call home. And over the next few weeks I’m interviewing some of Midway’s residents who have their stories to share – let me know at vanessaseitz@me.com if you have some good stories about Midway that you would like to talk about.

History Midway was the first town in Kentucky to be founded by a railroad. It began as a small settlement named Stevenson’s around 1832 (Kentucky Place Names, Univ. Press of KY, 1987). It was then named Middleway by the Lexington and Ohio Railroad Company because it is midway between Lexington and Frankfort, and Versailles and Georgetown. It was renamed Midway in 1837 (Wikipedia.com). There are several Indian mounds in and around Midway made by the people who lived in this area long before it was settled by Europeans. One such of these is on the crest of the hill on Mimarie Farm on the corner of Old Frankfort Pike and Redd Road. There have been numerous arrowheads and Indian settlement remains found there; the silo built near the settlement site can be seen from downtown Lexington. In 1832, railroad construction was almost completed in Midway and the first passengers rode horse-drawn railroad cars from Lexington. It was not until 1835 that a steam locomotive went through Midway, towards Frankfort. In the early days, Kentucky railroads ran through horse and cattle farms and the train crew often had to stop to open and close gates to allow the train to pass through. One such owner was Colonel John Francisco (after which the Francisco’s Farm Arts Festival is named), who owned land in the area. He sold his 216-acre parcel of land for $6,491.25 to the Lexington and Ohio Railroad and on it they built the town of Midway, where railroad workers could live (Wikipedia.com). From 1835, the town of Midway grew fast along what became known as Railroad Street with hotels, a distillery, stores, bars, churches and schools being built (Meetmeinmidway.com). At one point during the “Age of Steam,” about 30 trains a day went through Midway. The last passenger train came through the city in 1971. The track is still used today for freight and one of the neatest things is seeing the train pass through when you are dining at one of Midway’s restaurants.

Horses Many horse connections can be traced back to Midway. The stallions Lexington and Asteroid stood at what is now a part of Airdrie Stud (Woodburn). Lexington gradually was losing his eyesight towards the end of his racing career, and as a stallion was almost completely blind. His sire, Boston, had also gone blind. Lexington was originally named Darley, but was renamed by new owner Richard Ten Broeck after the town in Massachusetts where the first shots were fired in the American Revolutionary War (Americanclassicpedigrees.com). Woodburn was owned by Robert Alexander. Alexander bought the African-American slaves Ansel Williamson and Edward Brown who, after being granted their freedom, became successful trainers in their own rights. Both trained Derby winners. Brown trained three Derby winners: Baden Baden, Ben Brush and Plaudit. Ansel trained Aristides – the first Kentucky Derby winner, and the same year trained another horse in his string, Calvin, to a win in the Belmont Stakes. In February 1865, Confederate soldiers attacked Midway, stealing some of Alexander’s horses (farm workers successfully hid Lexington and some of the other stallions). The soldiers robbed residents and burned down the railroad station. (Wikipedia.org). Jockey and trainer William “Billy” Walker was raised in Woodford County. He started riding in 1871 when he was only 11 years old. He rode for 25 years (he was leading rider at Churchill Downs at six of the tracks first 13 meets!). He rode Derby winner Baden-Baden in 1877 when he was only 17-years-old for Edward Brown. After he retired, he became a trainer and worked for John Madden (Hamburg Farm) who bred five Derby winners: Old Rosebud, Sir Barton, Zev, Paul Jones and Flying Ebony. (Racingfactions.com). Other famous horses that have been bred or raised in Midway include War Emblem, the 2002 Kentucky Derby winner; Funny Cide, the 2003 Derby winner; Monarchos, the 2001 Derby winner that went to stud at Nuckols Farm in Midway; and a slew of other well-known horses including those at Lane’s End, Three Chimneys and Airdrie Stud. 2019 Derby runners Country House, Long Range Toddy, Code of Honor (Travers winner), and Vekoma were also all bred and foaled in Midway. Man O’ War was trained initially by Joseph Bryan Martin, who was born and raised in Midway and is now buried in the city cemetery. Martin was said to be the first person who rode and trained Man O’ War. He was born at 314 North Winter Street.

Midway – current facts According to City-Data.com, Midway has a population of 1,811 (2017). The current median household income is $59,866 (it was $50,909 in 2000) and the per capita income in 2017 was $29,798. The median home value in 2017 was $179,721. But Liveability.com states that only 31.1 percent of Midway homes are owned, and the rest are rented, with the median property rent being $818 per month. The median age of residents in Midway is 36.5, with 29 percent of the population aged over 62 and only 20 percent of the population aged under 18. So around 50 percent of the population is of working age. The population also breaks down to 43.1 percent male and 56.9 percent female (Livability.com). The 2000 census also stated that the average family size was 2.96 people. Midway is fortunate to have an elementary school in Northside School and its own branch of the Woodford County Library. Actors Steve Zahn and Sam Shepard have lived in Midway.

Food and restaurants in Midway Midway restaurants have featured in National shows and publications. Weisenberger Mill grits are featured in the current issue of Garden and Gun. It is the oldest continuously operating mill in Kentucky, dating from 1865. It has been owned and operated by six generations by the Weisenberger family (Weisenberger.com). The old mill wheels can be seen outside the mill and inlaid along the stone wall of a home just across the newly finished replacement Weisenberger bridge. Weisenberger Mill grits can be found on restaurant menus all over the United States, while Weisenberger Mill flour is used in homes and restaurants locally and further afield. Films shot all or partially in Midway include 1967s “Flim-Flam Man,” 1999s “Simpatico,”, 2010s “Secretariat” and last year’s “Midway To Love.”

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